Why VOIP doesn’t work too well in Pakistan

Simplified explanation written for someone trying to figure out why their VOIP doesn’t work on certain ISP’s:. The govt. of Pakistan not like you trying to bypass their phone system so they tell all isp’s to block such evil programs… Here is how it works:

you –> isp –> ptcl –>> pie –> Fujairah –> ???? –> the world

pta is also somewhere in the above equation, sort of floating around.

the pie in the equation above (theoretically) monitors everything you do on the internet – every email, webpage etc. etc. and blocks the popular voice services, a few newspapers, a small percentage of porn sites and whatnot. After all, every self respecting country must censor the internet, right?

However, the bigger isps have direct internet connections, which don’t go through pie, which looks like this:

you –> isp –> Flag/Reliance Telecom –>> india –> ??? –> the world

and hence not censored by Pakistan, but once again your emails/web is now being monitored by India. (well they also monitor the other one…)

(all this monitoring is besides the CIA/NSA blah blah).

Anyways, the second option is faster as there is no slow paki censor to slow them down. while theoretically these isps are supposed to self censor, in practice they don’t, hence voice and everything works.

So the problem is probably your ISP – which is why you must switch to a better one. If it is dialup, that is obsolote. If it is Worldcall, that is ‘unspeakably bad’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2004_09/worldcall_review_update.html.

See ‘Internet links in Pakistan”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2005_07/internet_links_in_pakistan.html and “Internet connectivity in Pakistan”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2005_01/internet_connectivity_in_pakistan.html for more information.

A choice quote from the PTA:

bq. “There are, however, some unscrupulous elements, indulging in illegal commercial activity of establishing exchanges for terminating international calls in the local networks of licensed operators. The media used for this illegal activity is mostly unlicensed VoIP (voice over Internet protocol). *There is an urgent need to eliminate the menace of such like illegal activities of grey market telephony.”*

>> “Daily Times: ISPs told to monitor customers’ activities, keep their record”:http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_14-9-2005_pg5_3

Grey market telephony!! Jail for you, you evildoer!! You see, now that ‘Pakistan is more advanced than many western countries’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2005_09/musharrafs_chestthumping_interviews_to_us_papers.html we’ve moved on to critical issues like _grey market telephony._ Look, when one can pay fifty times more to PTCL for a phone call, why would anyone in their right mind want to use VOIP?? After all, it’s not like this is a poor country, with hundreded of thousands of pakistani’s working abroad to support their families back home.

h4. the pieces making up the Pakistani internet mess

* pta – ‘Pakistan Telecommunications Authority’:http://www.pta.gov.pk/index.php?cur_t=vnormal

* singtel – ‘Singapore Telecom’:http://www.singtel.com/

* isp – internet service provider

* pie – ‘pakistan internet exhange’:http://www.pie.net.pk/

* Reliance Telecom – very big indian company

* ‘Flag Telecom’:http://www.flagtelecom.com/- owned by above.

The Pakistan Internet Exhange is a very appropriate name – what it does is exhange your internet access for a nice little slowdown as it attempts to filter/track/record all traffic passing through its servers. At the present time it is grossly underpowered for what it’s trying to do.

The PTA is doing a bang up job opening up the telecoms sector, but it doesn’t quite know what to do about the internet. Despite the govt. issuing broadband policies and our top leaders mouthing off about the Internet, the PTA remains adrif when it comes to sane policies regarding internet use.

11 thoughts on “Why VOIP doesn’t work too well in Pakistan”

  1. Just to correct you, at present PiE has lifted all blocking on its network. You can verify this by trying to access websites that were previously blocked.

    Most of FLAG’s traffic is also routed through Fujairah and not through the east-fiber.

    PiE is an CIX (Commercial Internet eXchange), albeit poorly designed (the local peering traffic and international traffic goes thru the same ISP port). The “slow” down that everyone talks about is perhaps less than 5ms. That is the practical slowdown you will face when processing packets. This is not done on the router level, actually it is – but its done on a switched fabric which is way faster. As I cited, at present PiE is not blocking anything (I’ve seen the ACLs).

  2. Thats very true pakistan is one of the few countries that is still trying to hold back Voip. I live in UAE which does the same there are always ways around these things but the lay man suffers. In pakistan using calling softwares isnt very good quality but google’s new software google talk is giving amazing PC2PC quality even on dial up in far flung regions of the country.

  3. Faisal, 5ms is hardly a slowdown, but is that after they’ve lifted blocking? If they’re filtering, there is probably a bottleneck somewhere in the system.

    You obviously know a lot more about the system… I’ve been wondering, since there is a PIE, why is it when the international links go down I can’t connect to local websites hosted in Pakistan? Last time around, I tried with 4 different ISP’s to connect to a couple of websites hosted in Pakistan, and it just didn’t work.

  4. KO: To comment on your post one-by-one.

    With 5ms I was being generous. Strictly, technically speaking, the delay ranges from 400-800 micro-seconds with the current hardware configuration they have at PTCL/PiE.

    There is no bottleneck per se in the system, the system inherently has a design flaw. PiE (which stands fro Pakistan Internet eXchange), was suppose to be just that – an Internet eXchange, or what is commonly referred to in the West, as a “Peering Point” or Commercial Internet eXchange. The flaw you might be wondering – what is it? In the US, the local-loop – i.e. the bandwidth from the backbone provider and the ISP is high-speed. Very high speed, typically multiple Gigabit Ethernet speeds. In Pakistan’s case, that is not true. You see in Pakistan, the peering between two or more ISPs from PiE is done over a single port, i.e. one in/out port. This same port is used for International traffic as well as local peering. I don’t know why PTCL has designed it such a way, because the price paid for this port is as per the International Bandwidth, i.e. $1000/MB. So for an ISP that can only afford 2Mbps link, the 2Mbps is used for international bandwidth AND local peering. So if someone were to send large amounts of local traffic, International traffic slows down, this causes a slow-down effect. Peering and International bandwidth need not be done on the same port. That is the flaw. Also, many ISPs still used asymmetrical satellites hops for their incoming traffic, thus you automatically will experience about 500ms delay in the return path.

    Coming to your 2nd comment, When international connectivity goes does, almost all the ISPs have their DNS servers. These servers “cache” their information from servers abroad, i.e. keep a tab as to where a particular website is on the Internet. If a locally hosted website “is cached” in the DNS server of your ISP, you ought not to have any problem reaching it. However, if the local website address is NOT cached in the DNS server of your ISP, the DNS server requests this information from “DNS servers abroad”. Since the international connectivity is down, the DNS, server fails to come up as to the location of where the locally hosted website is – and thus returns your query with a failed answer. In Pakistan, we do NOT have a backup (Master DNS Server) for .PK nor for other domains. So when International connectivity goes down – we’re in the black.

  5. We are in VOIP business and want to terminate our calls so please let us know which ISP is good and have open ports in Pakistan ?

    how to find VOIP ternination parites in Pakistan ? so called legal or in gray market.




  6. Hi!

    I’ve been trying VOIP, but my DSL provider limits me to 1gb of usage a month…does anyone know of a decent internet provider which will allow voip in Islamabad and offers unlimited access?

  7. My dear fellows Desi Pakistani just clicks this address http://www.testyourvoip.com/ and makes a free account there. Do let you that it use Java so have it install!

    Fallow the instruction and you be looking what causing your sweet SIP VOIP and so on in your lap. Well there is one way you can have your SIP working. But it demands what service sip voip provider you are using

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